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Nation & World

Harsh Temperatures In The Pacific Northwest Take A Toll On Farmers' Crops

NOEL KING, HOST:

Record heat in Washington and Oregon is hurting agriculture on two fronts - both the people who harvest crops and the crops themselves. Here's Anna King from the Northwest News Network.

(SOUNDBITE OF FARM TRUCK RATTLING)

ANNA KING, BYLINE: Central Washington farmer Alan Schreiber is worried about his...

ALAN SCHREIBER: Melon, watermelon, tomatoes, eggplant, okra - what you call hot crops. But they need a lot of water.

KING: Schreiber just found out his irrigation pump is only running at 30% capacity. And it's 117 degrees out.

(SOUNDBITE OF IRRIGATION SPRINKLER)

KING: His new water pump won't arrive until Friday. So now he's having to make some hard choices.

SCHREIBER: We have stopped watering our perennial crops. So we're not watering our tree fruit, grapes and berry crops.

KING: He says, those fruits can hold up with less water. Across the Northwest, agriculture is stressed. Blueberries are ripening so fast, processors can't keep up. Potatoes, a valuable Northwest crop, are growing in weird shapes, making them hard to cut into french fries. Dairy cows produce less milk when overheated. So operators are misting them with water and turning giant fans on them.

Of course, most in peril are the humans. Some workers are picking cherries at night under floodlights. Gonzalo Rodriguez is a farmworker supervisor. He says after early morning work, his farm workers hide in air-conditioned housing, watching TV, napping or calling family.

GONZALO RODRIGUEZ: You really get tired when you wake up at 4, you start to work at 5 and you finish at 10 or 11 or maybe noon. And then what you want and need is to eat and sleep.

KING: The region expects to continue seeing temperatures above 100 degrees into next week. For NPR News, I'm Anna King outside of Eltopia, Wash.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRACE BUNDY'S "TIMEPIECE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.